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He says it’s like water off a duck’s back but controversial documentary maker Michael Moore has just about had it with the critics who are making a “cottage industry” out of attacking him, as Jimmy Thomson reports after a Cannes press conference where Sicko had its world premiere. (Last week we published an interview with Debbie Melnyk, whose doco on Michael Moore, Manufacturing Dissent, is another film critical of his methods, though not of his stated objectives.)

“I’m the brunt of a lot of this hate-spewing. I try to laugh it off and say they drank their hate-or-ade for the day,” said the multi-award winning director at the launch of his new movie Sicko in Cannes at the festival.

“There’s now 11 or 12 anti Michael Moore documentaries that have been made about me, funded by various sorts. There’s Michael and Me, Me and Michael, Michael Moore Hates America, America Hates Michel Moore. There’s a cottage industry of these films that attack me. I want to sponsor a film festival of anti Michael Moore films and give out prizes and all that,” he joked. “But when they say the things I say aren’t true, I think the record speaks for itself.

“Eighteen years ago, I said General Motors was a giant about to fall and at the time I was criticised and ridiculed for uttering such blasphemy about the world’s corporation that could do no wrong. Now it’s on the verge of bankruptcy and Toyota just surpassed them in the last quarter,” said Moore, obviously enjoying the high regard in which he is held in Cannes, if nowhere else.

“I made Bowling For Columbine partially in the hope that school shootings would stop and we would address the issue of how easy it is to get a gun in the US. And tragically, the school shootings continue. I made Fahrenheit 9/11 and I said that we’d gone into the war under false pretences. I said we had a fictitious White House, full of fiction, at the Oscars and I was booed off the stage.”

"more energy is expended on trying to undermine him than address the issues"

But Moore is clearly becoming frustrated that, as he sees it, more energy is expended on trying to undermine him than address the issues he raises.

“I would hope by now, especially as I begin to enter the discourse with this new film, that I could catch a break. That somebody at some point will say, ‘Ok, maybe we don’t like the way this guy looks but he warned us about General Motors, he warned us about the school shootings, and he warned us about Bush and the reasons for this war and we didn’t listen.’

“And it’s my profound hope that people will listen this time with this film because I don’t want to wait 10 or 20 years before we have universal health coverage in America and before we as Americans take a look into our soul so we can become better citizens in this world.”

Sicko is a painful examination of the open wound that is American health care (or the lack of it, for those who need it most). And Moore decided that the issue warranted a more detached approach than his previous hit documentaries Roger And Me, Bowling For Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11.

“I wanted a different tone to the film and I wanted to say things in a different way. Part of the reason is that I didn’t want the audience to say that as long as Mike goes and beats up the executive of the corporation we can sit here and cheer him on, or that’s great he confronted that congressman and asked him if he was going to send his son to Iraq.

“Thinking about that after Fahrenheit, I started thinking about the whole conceit of the audience living vicariously through someone on the screen – in this case me – and thinking we’ll never have real change in the United States if the public doesn’t see that it’ll only happen if they rise out of the theatre seats and do something about it. So the film is a call to action. It’s not about Mike Moore doing it, but for the American people to do it. I became very tired of the yelling and screaming and not getting anywhere,” said a slightly slimmed down Moore who admitted he’d initiated his own health care programme, if only by taking an occasional walk around the block.

"You must remove profit when it comes to health care"

“You must remove profit when it comes to health care. Profit should play no part in the decision about whether or not you should help someone. The health insurance companies and drug companies are legally required to maximise the profits for their shareholders. (Healthcare) needs to be non-profit and managed by Government for the people. I have a lot of faith in the American people, they get it – or eventually get it,” he said. “I don’t think the American public is going to be so hoodwinked as they were over Iraq.”

Even so, looking beyond the rapturous reception his movies receive overseas, he was ready for the slings and arrows of outraged Fortune 500 companies when he got back to the USA to start promoting the movie there.

“The health and pharma companies aren’t going to like this film and the things I’ll say,” he added, with more glee than regret in his voice.

Published August 16, 2007


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Michael Moore




Australian release: August 9, 2007
Filmmaker Michael Moore asks health care workers past and present about the pitfalls of health insurance in the American system; they all say the insurers impose so many restrictions that it is often difficult to have a claim accepted. On the other hand, without universal health care, the most vulnerable members of society – who can’t afford even the troublesome health care there is – are left to fend for themselves. Moore visits Canada, where his parents offer evidence on Canada’s universal health care. He also visits England and France for further comparisons to show up the deficiency in the US. He demonstrates how generous the health care system is in both countries, before taking some firemen suffering post 9/11 symptoms to Cuba, where they receive free the medical treatment they should have got back home.

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